'Sonic the Hedgehog': How Michael Jackson and Mario helped bring Sega's flagship character to life

The blue, white and red speedster is all set to make his live-action debut with his upcoming movie. But have you ever wondered how the character came to be?


                            'Sonic the Hedgehog': How Michael Jackson and Mario helped bring Sega's flagship character to life
Michael Jackson, Sonic and Mario (IMDb/Getty Images)

If someone were to put together a list of the most iconic video game characters of all time, Sonic the Hedgehog would have to be in the top five at the very least.

The blue, white and red superstar speedster is all set to make his live-action debut with his upcoming movie starring Ben Schwartz and Jim Carrey but have you ever wondered how the character came to be? Well, for that story, we're going to have to take a trip back to the 90s. 

Cassette tapes and grunge music were still a thing, the VHS industry was very much alive and Nintendo was the reigning king of video games. Nintendo's 'Mario' enjoyed unparalleled popularity and Sega, Nintendo's main competitor, was starting to feel the ice cracking under its feet. 

Hayao Nakayama, the then president of Sega, decided that Sega needed a new mascot who could give Mario a run for his money and put the company to work on creating Sega's answer to Mario. The rest, as they say, is history.

Designer Hirokazu Yasuhara, artist Naoto Ohshima, and programmer Yuji Naka were the ones responsible for creating Sonic the Hedgehog, making sure that the character looked as visually different from Mario as possible.

Not only did Sonic help Sega get back on par with Nintendo but he also ended up becoming practically synonymous with the video game company, the ultimate mascot that Nakayama was looking for.

Cover art for the original 'Sonic the Hedgehog' game (Sega)

So in a way, Sonic would never have been born if it wasn't for Mario hurting Sega's profit margins. However, the good old plumber wasn't the only one who influenced Sonic's creation.

A legendary pop star also had a hand (or should we say a foot?) in the creation of the character's iconic look. In an interview with Gamasutra back in 2009, Naoto Ohshima spoke about how he chose the colors for Sonic's design. 

"Well, he's blue because that's Sega's more-or-less official company color," he explained.

"His shoes were inspired by the cover to Michael Jackson's 'Bad', which contrasted heavily between white and red — that Santa Claus-type color. I also thought that red went well for a character who can run really fast, when his legs are spinning."

It's always interesting when you realize all the influences that go into creating a fictional character, especially one as iconic as Sonic. And who knows, perhaps Sonic could go on to inspire another character just as iconic as him.

'Sonic the Hedgehog' will be racing to theaters on February 14.

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